Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fourest for the trees: a translation of Caroline Fourest on Tariq Ramadan

Back in 2004, a French journalist and sociologist, Caroline Fourest, took it upon herself to investigate the slick Muslim apologist Tariq Ramadan. I provide here an English translation of excerpts of her findings.

For those who may have forgotten, Tariq Ramadan was wisely barred by the Bush Administration from entering the U.S. when he tried to enter in order to participate in yet another asinine "bridge-building" "inter-faith" seminar at that bastion of Christian PC MC, Notre Dame University. A few years later, just to show that Obama is a few degrees worse than George "Islam is a great religion of peace" Bush, the Obama Administration rescinded the ban, and has allowed Tariq Ramadan entry again into the U.S. so that he can spread his seditious poison here. Apparently, the Obama people have not read Caroline Fourest. Even if they did read her, they'd probably find a way to filter out her warnings and call her a "bigot" (even though she is a Leftist atheist intellectual).

Before I get into the excerpts, I must note the irony that from what I have read, it seems that Caroline Fourest herself is an asymptotic analyst on the deep end, perilously close to being PC MC herself (which may have something to do with the fact that she is a self-professed Leftist). I.e., she basically subscribes to the TMOE: the "Tiny Minority of Extremists" are the problem, not Islam itself, and therefore not the vast majority of Muslims, who are decent moms and pops like the rest of us, and are therefore poor "victims" of Islam. As she explains in this interview in October of 2004, for example, she believes in the Myth of the Golden Age of Ijtihad (i.e., that Islam once upon a time was "advanced" and "enlightened" and so therefore its current fanatical savagery is just a blip in history, apparently caused by factors other than Islam itself) and part and parcel with this, believes there exist a sufficient number of "liberal Muslims" who "really want to modernize Islam".

Also, like most every other deep asymptotic, she seems to subscribe to the latest fashionable Ism to explain the extremism that is flaring up rampantly all over the world: "Salafism". It's not Islam that is generating and nourishing and sustaining all these flare-ups of "radicalism" all over the world -- it's some modern permutation called "Salafism"! This becomes clear in her exposé on Tariq Ramadan, where she labels him a "Salafi", as though his being a Muslim following Islam straight no chaser isn't enough to explain his dangerous pathology (amusingly, in her debate with fellow Leftist François Burgat, he defends Ramadan on the basis of a "Salafism" paradigm -- claiming that Ramadan is not a "Salafist" and therefore is a benign Muslim -- while she accuses Ramadan on the same basis). But then, how could Islam itself be bad when one believes, as Fourest apparently does (as becomes clear in the excerpts below), that the Koran is morally advanced and that snakes like Ramadan are not following, but flouting, it when they are being snakes? How, one wonders, does she explain the innumerable snakes that pullulate out of the Muslim world? Probably like all deep asymptotics and/or PC MCs, she subscribes to the Scholastic accidents-essence distinction: that somehow, some accidents -- geopolitical, economic, psychological, "cultural" (as though Islam isn't a culture itself) -- and not Islam itself, explain the "extremism" that seems to come so... naturally to Muslims.

At any rate, even if Caroline can't see the forest fire for the trees, her labors with regard to exposing that consummate snake Tariq Ramadan are invaluable for the rest of us who can. One crucial point illuminated by Fourest that may be lost on the reader is that Tariq Ramadan pursues a "double discourse" -- to unsuspecting non-Muslim audiences, he twists his message with slick sophistry into a seemingly modern and secular view; but to his Muslim audiences he telegraphs a more "radical" (i.e., more Islamic) intent. During the years Fourest investigated Ramadan, the communications medium he used to pursue the latter track was chiefly through public speeches to Muslim audiences and cassette tapes which sold like hotcakes to Muslim youth throughout Europe throughout the 80s and 90s (recall that the cassette tape -- and, one suspects, boomboxes to play them on portably -- played a key role in fomenting and organizing the 1979 popular (and therefore, being Muslim, fanatical) revolution of Iran). Nowadays, one suspects Ramadan has upgraded his medium to the Internet, Twitter and MP3 players, etc.

Here follows the excerpts (any comments in square brackets are mine):

Respect the Constitution... unless it goes against Islam!

In theory, even in his cassette tapes, Ramadan sees no contradiction between the fact of being Muslim and being French, or Muslim and Swiss, etc.

"As a resident of this country or as citizen, I respect the Constitution. This is an Islamic principle (1)" he says.

But a more accurate perspective of his words brings out a completely different sense to this declaration of intention. It reveals in effect that it is necessary to respect the Constitution and the law up to the point where "everything which pertains to this country, from a point of view that is social, cultural, economic and legal, which does not oppose any Islamic principle... becomes Islamic (2)."

This mutually compatible formulation is evidently decisive. Up to this point, one could understand that the sphere of being a citizen and the sphere of being religious were not incompatible, and it was questionable which would have to give way in case of conflict. The response of Tariq Ramadan is clear: a Muslim respects the laws of a country as long as this framework does not oppose any Islamic principle!

Consistently in this particular cassette tape he insists:

"Everything in the culture in which we live which does not oppose Islam, can be accepted."

Which excludes the rest.

In a conference on "Our identity in context: assimilation, integration or contribution?", he offers this proposition to his co-religionists:

"We agree on integration, but it is our side that brings the meaning."

And what is this meaning?

"I accept the laws insofar as the laws do not oblige me to make a choice against my religion (3)."

References: (1) et (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Vivre en Occident: les cinq fondements de notre présence, partie II, QA 40, Tawhid. (3) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Notre identité face au contexte: assimilation, intégration ou contribution, QA 44, Tawhid.

Ready to fight to defend the Muslim identify

Apparently unsatisfied by the Five Pillars of Islam concerning the religion, Tariq Ramadan has added to them four other pillars (all political), deemed to form the Muslim identity in non-negotiable terms.

Faith: "To be able to live out our spirituality and our practice completely."

Understanding: "To learn our religion."

Education: "To be able to transmit to and educate our children in the Message."

Action: "To be able to act in the name of our faith."

In appearance, this proposition seems harmless. It has not shocked anyone in the audience seeing in him a modern and secular Muslim. Doubtlessly, those audiences may have been more curious if they had equally understood the cassette tape version of this presentation on the Muslim identity, where Tariq Ramadan clarifies:

"If there is a society which would take any of these four points away from me, this society, I would resist, I would fight (1)."

Reference: (1) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, L'Identité musulmane: construire notre discours, QA 28, Tawhid.

Secularism, Ramadan Style

Tariq Ramadan is very clear on the fact that Muslims must fight to make secularism evolve in order to accomodate their fundamentalist and political vision of Islam: "The State is not able to take account of a people who change, therefore it must change the people," he explains in his cassette tape "Islam and secularism" (1)...

The question is whether Muslim ought to be citizens in order to act on their environment, but ruled out of question is whether this environment or their citizenship should influence Muslims. Ramadan proposes to integrate all that is Islamic, but he wants to fight against the forces against which the Islamic community remains segregated from anything that would compromise its identity:

"I integrate what is good in the name of what is universal, I do not compromise, I do not relativize."

Which then follows:

"I come with a globalizing view (2)".

The exchange is not possible except in one direction: Muslims are urged not to dissolve themselves into the Western societies, but rather to use their citizenship in those societies in order to Islamize them. This is what is best understood whenever he speaks of the Muslim "contribution" which he presents as a third way between Integration and Assimilation. Notice very carefully how he translates this concept before his fellow Muslims:

"We must engage ourselves in all domains where we find ourselves or where we are able, in order to change things toward more Islam (3)."

References: (1) et (3) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Islam et laïcité: compréhension et dialogue, QA 18, Tawhid. (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Islam d'Europe entre religion minoritaire et message universel, HC 024, Tawhid.

From the obsession of shame to that of segregation of men and women

Behind a message apparently benign, Tariq Ramadan reveals an extraordinary bigotry, obsessed by shame and by the danger of transgression... He agrees that a man and a woman may speak together in public, of course, but he finds it immoral if a man and a woman (who are unmarried) find themselves together alone in a room. He even prefers it if men and women refrain from handshakes, except when this can be interpreted by non-Muslims as intolerant:

"Try to avoid [shaking hands], but if they extend a hand to you, give them your hand."

He brings a veritable fight in support of unmixed swimming pools, as shown by his anger at the "great sins" supposedly practiced in the French island la Réunion [a popular French tourist location in the Indian Ocean which, being French, no doubt has topless swimming and plenty of speedos]:

"Today, the swimming pools on la Réunion are not Islamic! Some men who have gone there have even said to themselves, 'But I protect what I should protect' -- but what is it that you see in the swimming pool: you cannot go there, because your eyes will see things which you should not see! Because you go down there and it seduces you! Therefore, it is necessary to develop places where there is decency, places where one can go that respect ethical principles (1)."


In his cassettes [on education], Ramadan quite clearly encourages young girls to withhold themselves from all sports activities:

"It is not permissible for girls to play sports in conditions where their bodies might be revealed to men (1)."

References: (1) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Les Grands Péchés, QA 4, Tawhid. (1) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, La Femme musulmane face à son devoir d'engagement, op. cit.

The veil as a flag

In his cassette tapes on "The Muslim woman and her need to be involved" (1), he strongly encourages these women not to let themselves be intimidated, but to put on the veil, and even to lodge complaints if they are refused that right:

"One must also make one's voice heard by legislation, by the right, so that you are respected with reference to this."

He adds that there is no question of giving up before adversity, for fear of having "problems with colleagues" or "at school". In giving praise to girls who have proven this "courage", he asks the Muslim community to raise them up on their shoulders:

"There must be a community that supports them." (...)

In general, Tariq Ramadan and his brother are never far from any issue involving the veil that becomes a news story. The preacher [Tariq Ramadan] readily explains to Muslims how to justify the choice to make things change so that the veil becomes more and more common and accepted:

"The more one is present in society, the more that women with their hijabs are present in society, in the discussion, expressing their advancement, expressing their existence... the more that social mentality will become habituated [to them], and the more that things will change (2)".

References: (1) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, La Femme musulmane face à son devoir d'engagement, QA 22, Tawhid. (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Vivre en Occident: les cinq fondements de notre présence, partie II, QA 40, Tawhid.

Educating our children in the Message

In the acts of the International Colloquy of Muslims of the Francophone Space [or C.I.M.E.F.], prepared under the guidance of Ramadan in 2001, among the strategic recommendations addressed by the steering committee over which he presided, one can read that "education is a sphere where strategies should be rigidly implemented". French Muslims are urged to "ensure their control of the school curricula and to block the movement of values that don't conform to our principles"; to "promote structures integrating the official curriculum with Islamic education, whether openly or not"; and, finally, to "pressure the public school to utilize free spaces for the dissemination of complementary religious teaching".

References: Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, La Femme musulmane face à son devoir d'engagement, op. cit.

Semantic tricks about the fundamentalists

As Ramadan openly critiques the liberal Muslims, so he never employs critical terms against fundamentalist Muslims. The "fundamentalists" or "Islamists" are those who use the religious for ends that are politically anti-liberal. For, Ramadan never uses the term to speak of Islamists. Insofar as they may be the Muslim Brotherhood, the most radical theologians or militants -- from Youssef al-Qaradawi to Sayyid Qutb, including Banna -- they are never designated other than in the flattering terms of "political Muslims" or "scholars". This is one way he uses to obfuscate their fundamentalism, which escapes those who don't know the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist.

The 'moratorium' on stoning broad daylight, during the broadcast of the television show 100 Minutes to Convince, he was content to propose a 'moratorium' on stoning for adultery. This proposition is not only unseemly and regressive, it constitutes a reactionary step backward with respect to the advances documented by the Koran itself. In effect, like Jesus before him ("Who himself had never thrown the first stone!"), Mohammed had wished to put an end to this cruel punishment. Aisha, his second wife, was accused of the sin of adultery and he did not want this type of injustice to be re-enacted.... [Note (aside from her avoidance of the glaring ethical issue that Aisha was an ipso facto unwilling child bride of Mohammed) Caroline Fourest's gullible reliance on the Koran itself, in apparent ignorance of the copious evidence in the hadiths indicating that Mohammed was firmly in support of lapidation for adultery.]

It behooves us to try to understand what Tariq Ramadan intends by a "moratorium". He speaks of an exercise in deliberation (choura) which would take place not among citizens per se but among scholars. And Tariq Ramadan recognizes as "scholars" only those theologians close to the Muslim Brotherhood: that is to say, the fundamentalists. Thus, what does it signify to propose a moratorium among Islamist scholars, the majority of whom already support stoning, if not to propose a period of time which could not but logically lead to the decision to support stoning!

[Fourest then moves to a discussion of the Algerian jihadists, the GIA, and the massacre of 12 Catholic monks in Algeria in 1993 at the monastery of Tibhirine]

If he really disapproved of the GIA, Ramadan would not be friends with the only man who dared to write that the massacre of Tibehirine was Koranically justified: Yahya Michot. In 1997, this Belgian convert to Islam was known to have revived a fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya supposedly demonstrating that the murder of monks at Tibehirine was justified from the religious point of view!... Few non-jihadist reformists have appeared at his side since.Tariq Ramadan himself, however, has remained among his friends. In March of 2002, he even wrote the preface of his latest work, a book published by Youth Without Borders. To be sure, the book in question does not deal with Tibehirine. It is a tome titled Muslim in Europe, and the notice attached by Ramadan to Michot is a powerful signal telegraphed to all young Islamists who are aware of these issues. Ramadan recommends Yahya Michot as "a brother and a friend". He does not spare his praise and presents him as "one of the rare Muslim thinkers who knows the elegance of a generous and worthy temperment."In this context... Ramadan all the same takes care to protect his flank by a seemingly innocuous phrase, which nevertheless he deploys tactically:

"More than once we [i.e., Michot and he] have disagreed, and often we have confronted each other."

About what? The youth who read this book will not know.

References: (1) Yahya Michot, Musulman en Europe, préface de Tariq Ramadan (éd. Jeunesse sans frontières).

Double Talk

He [Tariq Ramadan] willingly avows his school of thought while he produces it before a "friendly" audience, but carefully avoids putting it forth before a public potentially critical. Interviewed by Beur FM in November of 2003, he acknowledged his affinity to Salafist reformism:

"There is a rationalist reformist tendency and there is a Salafi tendency, in the sense where the Salafi tries to remain faithful to fundamental principles. I am of this latter tendency, which is to say there is a certain number of principles which are for me fundamental, which I do not want to betray insofar as I am a Muslim (1)."

One couldn't imagine being clearer. If Tariq Ramadan is really a reformist, it is uniquely in terms of being "Salafist", that is to say in terms of being fundamentalist (the Arabic word salaf signifies 'our pious ancestors'). Insofar as the term "reform" indicates his genuine desire to renovate the understanding of Islam, the qualifying adjective "Salafist" reminds us of the orientation expected by this modification -- in this case, a reading that is outdated, not progressive.

On February 25, 2004, less than a week after his interview on Beur FM, [Tariq Ramadan] held an entirely different discussion at a conference organized at U.N.E.S.C.O. Put into a corner by Ghaleb Bencheikh, known to represent a more liberal reformist current, he turned the tables, accusing his critic of making a mock-trial:

"I am not Salafist! "Salafi" means literalist. I am not literalist." ...

An amusing ploy indeed. Tariq Ramadan is caught in the flagrant practice of double-talk. "Salaf" evokes the fundaments and not literalism.

And Tariq Ramadan is certainly a Salafist, even if he is not literalist. He counsels Muslims to be faithful to the spirit of the texts and not to their exact formulation -- "What is absolute is not the letter but the principle (2)" -- but nevertheless he considers every promulgation enunciated in the 7th century, in a given historical context, as being "an eternal word in principle". Thus his non-literalist Salafism remains a predilection to refuse to modernize or to adapt the principles of the 7th century.

References: (1) Dépêche AFP du 15 novembre 2003. (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, L'Islam et le fondamentalisme religieux, QA 11, Tawhid.

The Virtuoso of Rhetoric

For the 15 years during which he has spoken -- now before a public of ultra-radical Islamists and now before a public of lay militant ultra-skeptics -- Tariq Ramadan has become a virtuoso of rhetorical and semantic obfuscation.

In order to be more effective, he invites Muslims to adapt themselves in terms of their public targets and therefore to get to know them better:

"I need to develop a discourse geared to the ear that will hear (2)." ...

Tariq Ramadan has directed -- and has taken a great role in so directing -- a little handbook on "the understanding, the terminology, the discourse" geared for the French Muslims. One can read there that the main objective of his work consists in "having a discourse faithful to our references" all the while being "inclusive". One specific passage: "Fidelity to our principles remains a priority."

Published by Tawhid Editions, this little publication preserves the acts at the International Colloquy of Muslims of the Francophone Space which was held at Abidjan from August 4 to 6 in 2000. Ramadan there industriously fashions a semantic redefinition of the words "right, rationality, democracy, and community". For each term, the booklet explicates how the word could be comprehended by Westerners, which may pose a problem for Muslims, and he proposes a "conceptual formulation" which strongly resembles a redefinition likely to trouble his interlocutors. One finds thus all his characteristic wiles. The word "rationality", for example, is no longer a synonym for the critical spirit of modern philosophy, but rather for the "intellectual path that allows for the rediscovery of faith".

One example among others. In fact, for each word he has included, Ramadan has developed a second definition -- to which those who follow his oral course or who have read his more confidential writings have access. This permits him to conduct a discourse apparently inoffensive, all the while remaining faithful to a message eminently Islamist without having any need to lie overtly, at least not in his eyes.

References: (1) et (3) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Islam et laïcité: compréhension et dialogue, QA 18, Tawhid. (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Islam d'Europe entre religion minoritaire et message universel, HC 024, Tawhid.

The Art of the Lie

In October of 2001, one month after the attacks of September 11, the journal Lyon Mag broke a taboo and posed the question which all the world sought to evade: "Should there be concern about Islamist networks in Lyon?" The outcome of the inquiry was formidable for Ramadan, who appeared in all his ambiguity. It was the first article truly capable of unmasking him. It was also the first time that he decided to attack in court. But Lyon Mag would not be intimidated. In January of 2002, the editorial staff chose to shore up their stance by interviewing Antoine Sfeir, who confirmed their misgivings. Sfeir spoke of a "clever orator" and a "fundamentalist charmer", "specialist in double-talk". (...)

Ramadan had difficulty accusing Antoine Sfeir of being racist, without looking ridiculous [Sfeir is Lebanese]... He therefore started a second suit. The two affairs, the one against Lyon Mag and the one against Sfeir, were fused... The journal Lyon Mag was condemned of not having used sufficient precautions, a classic outcome, but Sfeir was recognized as having held a position conforming to some truth. The verdict was very hard on Ramadan. In its judgement of May 22, 2003, the court of appeal of Lyon decided that the discourse of preachers like Tariq Ramadan "could exercise an influence on young Islamists and could constitute an inciting factor that could motivate them to join partisans of violent acts".

Thus this dealt a death blow to the plaintiff. Still, Ramadan found a may to minimize the case... By mingling the two cases, against the director of Cahiers de l'Orient [Sfeir] and against Lyon Mag [only the latter of which he won, by a technicality], he fostered the belief that he had gained the advantage against Sfeir. He exploited this on the public arena of television, for example on the broadcast "Campus" on December 4 of 2003, by claiming he had effectively won against all those who had accused him of using double-talk. On that day, he was reproved by Guillaume Durand: "You lost your case against Antoine Sfeir..." But Ramadan persisted and lied: "No, I won my case against Antoine Sfeir."

To Establish 'Spheres of Collaboration'

In his cassettes, Ramadan openly encourages his followers to weave alliances:

"I would like it if you would keep in mind that we are not merely to raise the gauntlet of resistance to Westernization without soul and without conscience... The best way is by a double prong of intelligent reflection: to mark the spheres of resistance and to develop the spheres of collaboration... One ought not to be alone against all (1)."

Hearing this, one might actually believe Ramadan is inviting Muslims above all to become allies with non-Muslims against globalization.

Except we know what Tariq Ramadan understands by resisting Westernization: not some globalization, but a "confrontation of civilizations" which would see the triumph of political Islam. Thus he explains in his cassettes to his followers:

"What did Huntington say? He said: the Western powers should search out in Muslim lands those who defend their ideology. That is to say, let them try to find in Muslim lands those Muslims called "liberal", or Muslims called "moderate" -- Muslims without Islam! ... I tell you rather that for us, those we need to collaborate with, it is exactly the contrary. One goes to the West to seek and to collaborate with all those who defend the right, the justice and the diginity of man. One goes to develop these bridges, one goes to be present on the field of academic and social dialogue... Therefore, we are against the philosophy of conflict, but we are for the philosophy of resistance through collaboration (2)."

Could it be clearer?

(1) et (2) Cassette de Tariq Ramadan, Islam et Occident, QA 16, Tawhid.

[Yes, Caroline, it could be clearer: Islam itself is the problem, and that problem is being enabled by all Muslims now, and throughout the past 14 centuries.]